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article imageWearable tech for babies — something else to worry about?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 31, 2017 in Technology
Tech firms are racing to develop technology for babies so that parents can monitor vital signs from afar (a step up from the classic baby monitor). However, psychologists warn that monitoring data about 'vital signs' only causes parents to worry more.
Examples of wearable technology for babies includes electronic sensors attached to an infant's sock to monitor vital signs and to audibly alerts parents on their smart phones should the signs change, such as if the baby's oxygen saturation level falls. Digital Journal recently profiled a range of 'baby tech' showcased at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in the U.S.; a sign of a burgeoning market in parent-infant monitoring deices. While this may initially provide a degree of comfort for the worrying parent, pediatric psychologists counter-state that these devices only serve to cause undue alarm to parents. Moreover, for healthy babies the devices provide no tangible medical benefits.
Other examples of smart or wearable technology for baby monitoring include the use of microphones and sensors embedded in the robotic crib, designed to detect when a baby is crying or moving; a sock monitor designed around pulse oximetry technology that can monitor a baby's heart rate; and a a washable cotton baby outfit fitted with breathing sensors, capable of sending a signal to smartphone.
Are these devices effective? Dr. Christopher P. Bonafide of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia thinks not. In a research note he states: "These devices are marketed aggressively to parents of healthy babies, promising peace of mind about their child's cardiorespiratory health." And then tellingly adds: "But there is no evidence that these consumer infant physiological monitors are life-saving or even accurate, and these products may cause unnecessary fear, uncertainty and self-doubt in parents."
The research also examines a range of devices, retailing between $150 and $300, and finds that most do not meet acceptable medical standards in relation to accuracy (it is important to note that most manufacturers do not state their devices are of equal accuracy to the types of medical equipment found in hospitals). Here Dr. Bonafide adds: "there is a serious question whether these are appropriate in monitoring healthy infants. A single abnormal reading may cause overdiagnosis — an accurate detection that does not benefit a patient."
The review has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, with the paper titled "The Emerging Market of Smartphone-Integrated Infant Physiologic Monitors."
More about wearable tech, Babies, wearable technology, Baby monitor
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